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Brexit does not mean the end of UK/Ireland trade, says Woodland

[ December 21, 2021   //   ]

Trade links between the UK and Ireland can be stronger than ever with effective customs arrangements, argues freight forwarder Woodland Group in a new paper published on 21 December.

It says that when the new Brexit trade agreement came into force earlier this year, data from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed a marked surge in Irish imports from Europe, accompanied by a sharp fall in goods bought from Britain. The drop off in trade has been in part down to fears by businesses over the efficiency of trade links with the UK and related cost in managing these.

But having guided and grown thousands of businesses through the changes in regulations over the last two years, Woodland Group Ireland says that trade links in fact can continue to be extremely beneficial to both Irish and British businesses and can facilitate growth, as long as regulations are managed efficiently and proactively. With so many viable options for both EU and UK links, the Irish freight forwarder emphasizes education around Brexit regulations to simplify processes and has invested into a dedicated team of customs specialists and partnered with local customs expert Brian Murphy to guide clients accordingly.

One of the key concerns voiced by Irish businesses, post-Brexit, is that importing from, or through, the UK would be inefficient and expensive compared to going to Europe directly. With new customs regulations coming into force for non-EU imports, it is true that Irish Revenue is handling up to 700,000 customs entries per day, a 30-fold increase in comparison to 1.8 million annual entries pre-Brexit. However, the right support, guidance and knowledge on how to complete the process correctly can actually alleviate many of the challenges, creating much stronger direct supply chain links with the UK and Europe whilst helping to maintain Ireland’s status as an attractive trade partner, says Woodland

Ireland is among the fastest growing economies in Europe, and remains one of the world’s most export-driven nations with a 2020 GDP of around €386.6billion (International Trade Administration). In addition, Ireland is seen as a gateway to Europe for many non-EU countries. This is one of the reasons importers and exporters are wary of any new Brexit regulations.

The importance to businesses of avoiding extra import/export charges was underpinned by a recentIrish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) report, in which 94% of manufacturers pointed out that transport and logistics costs posed a moderate challenge for the business in 2021, making it all the more crucial to scrutinise documentation needs at every stage of the supply chain planning and to apply the correct customs authorisations and simplifications to reduce cost and compliance risks. Woodland’s customs flows are handled by fully trained in-house customs experts, who can identify gaps in compliance obligations and risk to custom.

It was previously proposed that 1 January 2022 would see the introduction of new import rules and border controls in the UK, such as full import declarations being required at the point of entry into the UK for all goods, including new SPS requirements for certain products when exporting from Ireland. However, on 15 December the legislation had been retracted “until further notice” so any goods moving from the island of Ireland to the UK will continue to do so under the current customs protocols, temporarily.

Brian Murphy of Global Trade, Woodland Group Ireland’s customs partner, commented; “Any mistakes in relation to incorrect or missing documents can leave businesses liable to delayed shipments or financial penalties. For example, customs checks around Rules of Origin can be carried out by both EU and UK customs retrospectively from the date of the origin claim, and your obligation to provide the full and correct documentation lasts up to four years, with a minimum of three years, depending on how you claim preferential origin. We’ve seen so much confusion and concerns around new regulations being implemented but feel strongly about Irish businesses being in a very strong trading position at the moment. It takes some proactive preparation but we can see significant opportunity for growth when done correctly.”

The UK Landbridge

The introduction of such measures has led to growing concern with companies considering sourcing goods elsewhere in order to simplify procedures. Currently some 64% of Ireland’s imports come from EU member states, although with stricter protocols, initially scheduled for January 2022, making it more difficult to trade with the UK, alternatives are being sought. However, these new rules are currently being postponed to allow for the government to complete negotiations, using the delay as an ‘act of good will’ for businesses to continue to operate as normal, therefore reducing the need to seek urgent alternative routes away from the UK.

The fact that businesses are looking for alternatives is backed up by data published by the Irish Maritime Development Office which shows a 50% increase in exports directly from Ireland to the EU, cutting out GB entirely. Roll-on-roll-off traffic using the routes into Liverpool and Holyhead from Dublin is also down 19% for the first three quarters of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. An increase in direct ferry lines from Ireland to France, as well as the concerns over delays and documentation, has had a big impact on the use of the UK as a quick route into Europe. An uplift in imports of day-to-day goods such as food and medical technology entering Ireland from the EU, as opposed to the UK, has also been seen since the introduction of Brexit measures.

However, the Landbridge remains a viable option for many Irish businesses. With the right know-how and organisation in place the impact will be negligible for those that have correctly completed the necessary documentation. Previously reported data inferred that there is predominantly a gap in regulatory education that is causing lengthy delays and hefty fees, a point that reinforces the importance of dedicated customs experts. Remember, EU goods departing Ireland to the continent and using the UK landbridge are not exports and imports; they are Union goods which move under Common Transit, therefore never losing their Union status. This greatly simplifies the paperwork and costs of navigating the new UK Landbridge.

Managing director, Woodland Group Ireland, Kevin Brady, explained “We have seen the significant effects of Brexit on Irish businesses importing and exporting to and from Ireland, with extra costs, additional paperwork, issues around customs classification, rules of origin, the impact of the Northern Ireland protocol on cross-border business and problems around moving shipments across the UK. However, we’ve also seen businesses thrive who have been able to adapt quickly and find ways to remove the supply chain stress some of these changes have caused.”

Woodland has increased its team of dedicated in-house customs specialists and says it is now one of the country’s leading customs consultant companies, processing thousands of declarations every month.

Brady adds: “Our suite of measures has really helped our clients navigate this complex post-Brexit trading climate and our established customs help desk offers free advice. We also work with clients on resourcing where it may streamline processes further, reduce cost, lead times and concerns to the client.”

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